Head Chef, Nina Matsunaga, was born in Dusseldorf, Germany, to Japanese parents, as you might expect these two very difference food cultures have come to play a big part in the underlying influences in the food she creates in the kitchen.
Even as a small child Nina showed a genuine interest in food, she baked with her mother but that said she hasn’t always been in the kitchen, aged 18, Nina, made the move to London to study Culinary Arts Management, to learn the intricacies of how to run a food and beverage business.
By the age of 21 she was back in Germany, helping in a friend’s bakery and heading up a leading cookery school delivering courses in the art of baking and game cookery.
Nina made a trip back to the UK, to Manchester, where she discovered a burgeoning street food scene, which fascinated her and where incidentally she met her husband to be James. The pair hit it off, Nina made the move to the UK and the rest is history. On arriving in Manchester Nina fully embraced the local food scene, she worked as part of the team at Trove for a while before setting up a street food and event catering business called The Moocher with James, which rapidly took off.
The pair made the move to Sedbergh in 2014 and opened their first eatery, The Three Hares, which won a host of accolades and appeared in the Good Food Guide. They still own and run this business, but these days you will find Nina firmly ensconced behind the stove’s in the kitchen at the Black Bull, crafting seasonal menus brim full of the freshest possible locally sourced ingredients.
Nina and James have a simple food ethos and that is to use only the best seasonal ingredients available from what they refer to as the neck of Britain, the counties of Yorkshire, Cumbria, Lancashire, Northumberland, Durham, Derbyshire and Cheshire.
They insist that they use native breeds, sourced in most cases no more than 20 miles from the kitchen door. They prefer to use animals that are farmed traditionally on small farms across the Lune Valley, on the banks of the River Lune from Lancaster to the Sedbergh fells, that way they can guarantee the provenance of what they are serving, which is hugely important reducing the distances involved reduces food miles, creates local jobs and ultimately reduces the stress to the animal ultimately providing a product with great texture and taste.
They use locally reared rare breed cattle such as Herefords and English Whites, local sheep breeds like Rough Fells and Herdwick’s, pigs like Yorkshire Middle Whites, game in the form of wild venison, rabbit and grouse, sustainably sourced fish from the North Sea and local freshwater fish; including trout, salmon and even pike and then there’s the abundant seasonal woodland and hedgerow larder, which provides a whole host of forageable ingredients including garlic mustard and mushrooms in all shapes and sizes that James is more than content to harvest for Nina to use in her inspired seasonal cookery.